What is scarlet fever? — Scarlet fever is a condition that causes a red rash. People with scarlet fever usually also have a sore throat. This is because scarlet fever is caused by the bacteria that cause a condition called “strep throat.” A person with scarlet fever has a red rash and usually has strep throat, too.
Strep throat is common in children. But not all children with strep throat get scarlet fever.
What are the symptoms of scarlet fever? — The symptoms include:
●Rash – This usually starts on the head and neck and spreads to the body, arms, and legs. It causes:
•Red spots that turn white when you press on the skin
•Small, raised bumps – Skin might feel rough, like sandpaper.
•Peeling skin – This happens when the rash is going away.
●Bright red tongue with small bumps on it – Doctors call this a “strawberry tongue” (picture 1).
A person with scarlet fever might also have symptoms of strep throat. These can include:
●A sore throat – This might start suddenly.
●White patches in the back of the throat
●Swollen glands in the neck
These symptoms usually get better in 2 to 5 days.
Should I see a doctor or nurse? — If you or your child has a sore throat and rash, call your doctor or nurse.
Is there a test for scarlet fever? — Yes. The doctor or nurse will do an exam and look at the rash. He or she can also check for the bacteria that cause strep throat and scarlet fever. The doctor or nurse will run a swab (Q-Tip) along the back of your child’s throat, and test it for the bacteria.
How is scarlet fever treated? — Scarlet fever is treated with antibiotics. The antibiotics reduce the symptoms of scarlet fever and keep it from spreading to other people.
Antibiotics also keep scarlet fever from causing other health problems. In some people, the bacteria that cause scarlet fever can cause a serious disease called “acute rheumatic fever.” This disease damages the heart and causes other problems. The heart damage gets worse over time.
Children between the ages of 5 and 15 are the most likely to get acute rheumatic fever. If your child gets scarlet fever, he or she needs antibiotics. The antibiotics kill the bacteria so they do not cause acute rheumatic fever.